This overall TE class should not summon much optimism that we will see the next Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, but there are few top prospects and plenty of sleepers to monitor that could be solid, sly additions to your fantasy roster throughout the season. These pre-draft rankings are based solely on the talent of the prospects and divided into tiers. After the draft and the undrafted free agent signing process, we will re-rank the players and discuss their fits with their new teams. The tiers should stay relatively the same, while adjusting within the tiers will occur based on players having more favorable situations for a better chance to produce fantasy numbers for your team.
Tier 1 – This is the elite tier for prospects that have the talent to be ranked around the top five TEs throughout most of their careers. For this class, I only have one player that fits this description.
1. Eric Ebron – Ebron has been compared to Vernon Davis by just about everyone. He has the potential to reach that level, but he is nowhere near there right now. His athleticism is already top notch and he seems to make highlight-worthy catches every week displaying his large catch radius, but he needs to work to get stronger and learn how to better use his larger frame to out-muscle the linebackers and safeties that will attempt to cover him in the NFL. He may not meet expectations in year one, but after a year or two to hone his skills, he could be more accurately compared to Vernon Davis and get into top five consideration.
Tier 2 – This tier is designated for the prospects that have the talent to be ranked consistently from the bottom of the top ten to the lower TE1 rankings during the prime years of their careers.
2. Colt Lyerla – If it wasn’t for the serious off-field issues with Lyerla, he could easily be ranked at the top. He is the most athletic in the class and even has the versatility to move in-line and be serviceable as a blocker. His on-field ability matches up favorably to Aaron Hernandez, although not as strong. Even if Lyerla is not drafted due to the off-field concerns, some team will give him a chance because of his immense talent. If he can get past the issues that have plummeted his draft stock, I would not be surprised if he puts up the best fantasy numbers of the class, but it will take some convincing for a team to allow Lyerla to get on the field and become one of the faces of the franchise. If he lands in a favorable situation, I would not have any issue moving him up to Tier 1.
3. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins – ASJ will be a consistent, reliable weapon for whichever team drafts him. He does not possess elite speed nor will he get many yards after the catch, but he has sure hands and is a very good route runner. He excels in the red zone similar to Joseph Fauria, because he presents a big target and has the concentration to make the catch with many defenders around. In fantasy, ASJ will not likely have huge yardage numbers but could have the most touchdowns in this class, possibly by a large margin.
4. Jace Amaro – Like Ebron, Amaro has not come close to reaching his full potential. He needs more fluidity in his route running, more strength, and better concentration with his catches. A good current NFL comparison would be Rob Housler, who is still working to reach his potential as well. When Amaro does get the ball, he is a force after the catch because of his balance and toughness. He should be used primarily in the slot, which for fantasy, is great news because he will always be a potential target on pass plays instead of staying in-line blocking.
Tier 3 – This tier contains the group of players that will likely not be drafted in any redraft leagues but warrant monitoring because they possess skills that could reward the fantasy owner that picks them up during the season. As an example, Jordan Reed would have been ranked in this tier last year.
5. Troy Niklas – Niklas is another convert that started his career at Notre Dame as a defensive end. His elite trait is his physicality that should prove to be a huge asset for teams when blocking and creating separation from defenders in his routes. This trait specifically matches up with Rob Gronkowski. However, Niklas is not near as fluid of an athlete as Gronk and is still very raw in his route running ability. With only two years of playing the position in college, it is possible that he could drastically out-produce his expectations, but on the flip side, there are other raw prospects that never seem to put it all together, like Taylor Thompson in
6. Jake Murphy – Son of the MLB all-star, Dale Murphy, Jake is a very underrated prospect and one of my favorite sleepers. He has shown his versatility as he was used both in-line and as an H-back in
7. CJ Fiedorowicz – Fiedorowicz is the most prototypical, "old fashioned" tight end in this class. He was primarily used at
8. Joe Don Duncan –
Tier 4 – This tier is comprised of the deep prospects that have the abilities to make a roster but will have to benefit from unforeseen circumstances, like injuries, or spend a few years developing their skills to work their way up the depth chart. Texans’ Ryan Griffin would have been included in this tier in 2013.
9. Crockett Gilmore – Gilmore is an all-around good player but not special in any aspect. He was able to boost his draft stock during the college all-star games, where he outplayed all of the other invited TEs at the East West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. His ceiling should be a good #2 TE option for a team similar to a Jacob Tamme.
10. Rob Blanchflower – With the most potential of this tier, Blanchflower was lined up everywhere for UMass to create mismatches. As a utility player, he produced well using his good burst and route running ability. An injury has forced him out of much of the pre-draft process which should drop him to a late round pick. I could see him filling a James Casey role where he can be used in multiple positions on offense and special teams.
11. Arthur Lynch – Lynch will most likely be used as more of an in-line blocker for a team. He improved every year with his receiving ability at
12. Larry Webster –Webster was a defensive end and a four year starter for the basketball team at Bloomsburg but is getting looks from teams to convert to TE because of his athleticism. He will need to add bulk and strength to play the position at the next level and has the frame to do it. He will be another project to keep an eye on once he makes a roster.
13. Richard Rogers –
14. AC Leonard – The fastest tight end in the class. Leonard put up good numbers at
15. Blake Annen – Annen started to gain notoriety after posting astounding athletic numbers at the
Tier 5 – This tier includes six more prospects that I do not expect to be fantasy relevant anytime soon, but I will be keeping an eye on where they land and track their development to gauge if they can eventually earn playing time. These players are Xavier Grimble, Ted Bolser, Jacob Pedersen, Marcel Jensen, Jordan Najvar, and Justin Jones.
Unless you have Graham or Gronkowski or you end up with a dynamic threat that came out of nowhere like Julius Thomas or Jordan Reed, the tight end position for fantasy is boring and uninspiring. Yet, if you do not end up with one of these few top tier TEs, it is imperative to be knowledgeable of the rest of the available players to be able to stream the position week to week and potentially find the next breakout player to make up for the large disadvantage that comes with passing on the elite of the position. The NFL is a copycat league and more teams will be looking for a dynamic TE threat to create mismatches. Soon, the position will have an abundance of elite options, but for now, we can only study the available prospects and be prepared to pounce on potential when it finally meets opportunity.